I went to a relatively small high school in a predominantly rural section of Pennsylvania, so one might think that my teachers were not necessarily of the highest caliber. There were a few rotten apples to be sure, but there were also some terrific instructors that I recall fondly. In particular, we had at least three outstanding history teachers.
First up was my seventh grade American History teacher, Mr. William J. Walborn.
This was in 1961-62 when we still attended school in Richland, before the Elco High School had been completed.
And because Richland had a very small faculty (almost too small to be called a faculty), teachers had to double up or sometimes triple up in what they taught, so Mr. Walborn was also our Phys. Ed. instructor, although since we didn’t actually have a gym—but never mind.
I recall Mr. Walborn as a lively instructor, but there are two things in particular that I remember from that course.
When we were studying the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, someone (I think it was me but I can’t be sure) asked Mr. Walborn whether the United States was right to go to war with Mexico, and he conceded that our country had most definitely not been in the right in that conflict.
I think that was the first time I had ever heard anyone admit that the United States could ever be in the wrong about anything.
Then when we covered the Reconstruction Era and the Grant presidency, Mr. Walborn impressed upon me that although there was corruption aplenty in his administration, Ulysses S. Grant was not himself corrupt.
So I have Mr. Walborn to thank when just a few years later during Lyndon Johnson’s famous “credibility gap”, it was a lot easier for me to accept that our country was and had been in the wrong about a lot of things. And I also have Mr. Walborn to thank for my lifelong interest in Ulysses Grant—and I’m so gratified that Grant’s reputation is finally being rehabilitated.
So thank you, Mr. Walborn!